Ahoy! Pakistan Requesting 150 Harpoon Missiles
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency informed Congress of a request from Pakistan for 50 UGM-84L (submarine-launched), 50 RGM-84L (surface-launched), and 30 AGM-84L (air-launched) Block II Harpoon missiles; 5 Encapsulated Harpoon Command Launch Systems; 115 containers; missile modifications; training devices; spare and repair parts; technical support; support equipment; personnel training and training equipment; technical data and publications; U.S. Government and contractor engineering and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $370 million.
So, what is the Harpoon Block II missile, and how does it differ from Block I versions? And how does Pakistan propose to deploy the new missiles?
The sub-sonic, wave-skimming
is the US Navy’s sole anti-shipping missile, with the minor exception of small AGM-119B Penguin missiles and anti-tank Hellfires carried on some H-60 helicopters. Accordingly, it has been adapted into several variants.
The Harpoon Block II is an upgrade program designed to improve the missile’s ability to attack targets in congested littoral environments, where nearby land masses and other ships can provide cover for would-be targets. Block II missiles leverage progress on several other weapons, using the low-cost Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation System (GPS/INS) from the Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) program, GPS antennae and software from Boeing’s Standoff Land Attack Missile (SLAM) and SLAM Expanded Response (SLAM ER) Harpoon land attack variants. The system has an increased number of waypoints associated with missile flight, and the GPS/INS provides improved missile guidance to the target area for anti-ship missions. Once it arrives in the area, the targeting system can use shoreline data provided by the launch platform to make it much better at distinguishing between a ship and a nearby land mass; indeed, these upgrades reportedly offer a 90% shrinkage of the previous “missile problem zone” near local shorelines. GPS/INS guided land attack is also possible, and the existing 500 pound blast warhead can deliver lethal firepower against targets which may include coastal anti-surface missile sites and ships in port.
The Harpoon Block II will eventually be capable of deployment from all platforms which currently have the Harpoon Missile system by using existing command and launch equipment, and a growth path is envisioned for integration with the naval Mk 41 Vertical Launch System and modern integrated weapon control systems.
Pakistan intends to use the Harpoon systems on its P-3 aircraft (which are undergoing refurbishment to improve their attack capabilities), surface ships, and submarines. The Pakistan Navy currently has AGM-84 Block I air/surface/subsurface launch capability, and recently accepted the Block II air- and surface-launched Harpoon versions.
For some excellent commentary re: the Pakistani Harpoon purchase and its operational implications, DID recommends retired Indian Commodore RS Vasan’s “The impact of induction of the P3C Orion Aircraft on the Indian Navy’s Preparedness: An Assessment.”
The prime contractor will be The Boeing Company of St. Louis, MO. There are no known offset agreements proposed in connection with this potential sale. Implementation of this proposed sale will require several U.S. Government and contractor representatives to travel to Pakistan on a temporary basis in conjunction with program technical and management oversight and support requirements.
See full DSCA release [PDF].